Hi, my name is Su Real and I like to get high. Although Indian society wants you to believe that there’s only 1 state-sanctioned day of the year to get high – Holi — I get high every day of the year, and I don’t think it’s a crime. It’s in our history, our ancestors used it and praised it, it’s in our blood, it’s all over our lands, the Cannabis Indica, the Soma. That’s why I celebrate 4:20 with special joy each year, and I hope you do too.
This year, Homegrown asked me to make a list of my favorite places to eat in Delhi when I’m baked. Whether it’s merely to appease the munchies, or to enhance the taste sensations – Mary Jane is a foodie at heart. So I enlisted the help of my buddy Vikramaditya Singh to take photos while we went on a day-long romp of smoking and eating our way through Delhi. If you like to smoke, you know the effect being high has on your desire to put something in your mouth, chew & swallow it down to your belly. So if you like to smoke and you like to eat and you’re ever in Delhi, you might find this article useful and tune into my 4/20 mixtape below.
I. Time: 1:30 p.m.
Destination: Lota Cafe in the Crafts Museum
The Munchies: Keema Pav, Palak Patta Chaat, Apple Cinnamon Jalebi with Coconut Rabdi, Bhapa Doi Cheesecake
We embarked on our adventure early one stoner morning so...about 1:30pm… Although I had a long list of recommendations from FB friends, V mentioned Lota Café in the Crafts Museum, which wasn’t on my list. So in typical stoner fashion, after finishing up a sweet doob in the spring sunshine, as I couldn’t find the scrap of paper I’d scribbled the day’s itinerary out on, we just sort of ended up at Lota Cafe.
We wandered through the Crafts museum while waiting for our name to be called from the waiting list. All tables were full on a Saturday, but the 15 minute wait was worth it as we roamed around the museum, which is just lovely – mostly open-air & well maintained. We sat down at a table for 4 and the waiter asked if we wouldn’t mind sharing the table with an older couple who were tired of waiting. We obliged – and although I was a little hesitant about ruining my buzz, we found ourselves engaged in a fascinating discussion with the professori couple on everything from genetics to global corruption. They enjoyed their tea, we enjoyed our coffee – of which Lota has quite a super variety of strains from Indian plantations. I don’t think our new friends had the slightest suspicion we were baked out of our gourds. I can’t be sure.
Then came the food! Everything was absolutely scrumptious and had a little sophisticated twist on Indian traditionals: like Keema Bao (as in mutton keema pav but with the keema inside the bun, making it Keema Bao, as in a big fat keema dumpling), and Palak Patta Chaat (tempura-fried crisp spinach accompanying a cool yoghurt mixed with masala and chaat stuff). The desserts though are what really got our heads spinning – the Apple Cinnamon Jalebi with Coconut Rabdi seemed physically impossible but there it was in front of us – spoiler alert: with slices of apple INSIDE the fried jalebi! Even the Bhapa Doi Cheesecake made from desi yoghurt was amazing – this from someone who normally doesn’t like cheesecake unless its wrapped up in chocolate, bacon or both. All in all, Lota is a chill place for whiling away a lazy Springtime afternoon – but after about 2 hours we realized we better get on with our mission.
II. Time: 3:30 p.m.
Destination: Barsoom, Hauz Khas Village
The Munchies: Mezze Platter, Mini-Lamb Burgers, Nutella Crepe
Smoking a doob in the car, we headed for Hauz Khas Village. These days, I often try to avoid it, but it’s still an easy go-to option – a familiar path of least resistance when baked. And for those familiar with its by-lanes, HKV still provides numerous nooks & crannies to sneak in a quickie. After doing so, I often end up at Barsoom – the new place on the main strip started by the kind folks of Flipside, one of the many iconic jaunts in the “middle lane” that were forced to shut down not so long ago. The atmosphere in Barsoom is different – “spacey” – but the vibe is still right. Great coffee, free wi fi, no hassles. I’ve spent entire days here doing work, catching up with friends, watching movies on my laptop, drowning in an unhealthy amount of fresh brewed coffee, all with regular puff breaks popping out around the corner somewhere, or maybe in the park.
The food will do you a solid too. Although they tell me the o.g. Nutella Crepe carried on to the Barsoom menu from the Flipside days is the stoner treat of choice according to their customers, personally I get turned on by other aspects of their menu. The Mediterranean-esque mezze platters are a veritable nibble fest, whether you go for veg or non-veg. Meanwhile, for more man-size nibbles the trio of mini-lamb burgers (each with a different set of sauce and toppings) hit the spot. Quantity, or at least the perception of serious quantity, is a key factor in appeasing those THC-induced cravings, and that goal is met perfectly here with these tapas-style starters.
III. Time: 5:30 p.m.
Destination: Gelato Roma, Hauz Khas Village
The Munchies: Hazelnut & Swiss Chocolate Gelato
Another 2 hours of chilling later, and dangerously close to full intestinal capacity, we push on. All the way down the street to Gelato Roma for ice cream! This place was started by three Italian expats with the mission of giving Indians a taste of authentic gelato. And they do a fine job – I’ve been guilt-free slurping up their sugary slosh since the early days when they only had the ice cream cart parked right at the gate of HKV. It tastes and feels home-made; there’s a limited but adequate assortment of flavors (my faves are the Hazelnut and Swiss Chocolate). At 100 Rs. For a big scoop, after a doobie, Gelato Roma is a short, cheap trip to paradiso.
V. Time: And….we’ve lost track of it.
Destination 1: Al Qureshi at South Extension Part II market
The Munchies: Mutton Tikka Rolls, Seekh Kababs, Chicken Tikka, Chicken Korma.
As dusk turned to night, dinner bells are chiming! We head over to nearby South Extension Part II market, where two of my favorite spots for champion-size endings to fully baked days lie nestled unassumingly nearby each other. If I’d only been asked to make a list of my favourite restaurants in Delhi while teetotallingly sober, I would have definitely put the legendary Karim’s in Meena Bazaar / Chandni Chowk area at the top of the list. But while stoned, it can be quite hazardous venturing all the way up there! So a close second, although quite different in taste, style and presentation is Al Qureshi in the back-lane right behind the South Ex Pt. II market.
Extremely popular amongst locals in the area, once upon a time the tables and chairs surrounding this tiny dhaba stretched on and on as cars created traffic jams lining up for take-away. As the police clamped down on this unbridled capitalism, the social scene is gone but the same great food stays. Go for any of their rolls – the mutton tikka is my favorite – or if you really need to feast, their Chicken Korma is beyond par and will likely shut down all bodily functions for a few hours! For snacking, their plates of seekh kebabs and chicken tikka are just delish.
VI. Destination 2: Dai Itchi at South Extension Part II market
The Munchies: Special Mix Non-Veg ‘Friend’ Rice, Lamb Manchurian
Inside the South Ex market parking is another almost-forgotten restaurant that was once an institution – Dai Itchi. I’ve been going to this place since I was 6 years old and they’d just built South Ex market and Dai Itchi at the time was pretty much the only standalone Chinese restaurant in Delhi outside a 5-star hotel. With the current explosion in the F&B sector, it’s easy to forget that it was just 20 years ago that these options didn’t exist. Dai Itchi has stood the test of time by at least seeming completely untouched by all the development around it. The menu, the décor, the seating arrangement, everything is just about as I remember it from my childhood – until recently there was even an older waiter who remembered me. He’s gone now but it’s just as well because he loved to comment how much fatter I’d gotten each time he saw me!
Anyway, once inside this time warp, one better be prepared for heapings of MSG. Now, MSG gets a bad rep even though there’s plenty of recent research that shows it’s not such a big deal. All I know is the way my tastebuds react to MSG when I’ve got THC active in my system is like two long-lost lovers reuniting in a flurry of passion. I mean, the whole point of MSG is to “enhance flavor” while THC is all set up to intensely perceive those enhancements. However, I shouldn’t mislead you – as far as restaurant fare goes, Dai Itchi is quite fresh and not-too greasy, but there is definitely something different in one’s cerebral reactions to this grub when stoned. Plus, my fave there is the house Special Mix Non-Veg Friend Rice with everything in it – they throw in so much pork, lamb, chicken, fish, prawns, shiitake mushrooms and other veggies that you almost can’t see the rice! Otherwise, go for the Lamb Manchurian – as they’re one of the few places who offer this distinctly Chinjabi dish, chunky lamb meatballs smothered in that signature “Manchurian” gravy. With salty saliva tears dripping from the corners of my mouth, we got this stuff packed up for later – the midnight snack-that-is-actually-a-feast.
At this point, totally over the permissible load for my stomach, I began realizing the futility of my endeavors. How could I have even imagined such an expansive tour of stoner food in Delhi – I’m not even close to halfway through my initial itinerary, whatever that was as I forgot to bring it and got too stoned to care anyway. But I know there’s quite a few spots left out of this article, as I only got to make it to 2 neighborhoods. What about Andhra Bhavan, Barbecue Nation, Dilli Haat, Defense Colony, Gurgaon? When I had polled my Facebook ‘frands’ for recommendations for this article, delivery services dominated the responses. Not only does that not bode well for a visual and descriptive piece on the Internet, but there is something special about leaving the house when stoned and taking in the world around you at its most vibrant. So anyway, although far from comprehensive, this list gets you started and even gives you the chance to bump into me sometime on your own stoner food trail.
Whether or not you smoke it, vape it, eat it or whatever, I hope you can agree with me in acknowledging that at least perhaps there is a chance that the criminalization of drugs, marijuana and it’s cousins in particular, does more harm than good. For India in particular, legalization of marijuana products could significantly contribute to our economy (and not just the black market). Meeting just the demands of the domestic market of millions of tokers would create jobs and businesses not only in the processing, distribution and retail of legal marijuana products, but via the Keynesian Multiplier provide a boost in opportunities for ancillary industries. Indian tourism could greatly benefit from such a relaxation in rules, and it would acknowledge the cottage tourism circuit built up around marijuana from malana to kerala for at least 50 years. There are several other applications of chemical compounds from the marijuana plants that could benefit medical science as well, not to mention the untold benefits of reducing stress levels throughout the country!
Parents who worry about their children smoking up should be more worried about their parenting techniques. The list of successful people around the world, historical figures, legends even, who have inhaled the illustrious smoke of marijuana is so long it would be silly to even quote a few names. At least two states in the U.S.A. have legalized it, Uruguay has legalized it, several nations around the world have acknowledged the need to reconsider the prevailing legal framework around criminalization of marijuana – wouldn’t it be great if India could lead the world in this direction?
Modi, Gandhi, Kejriwal, whatever – wake me up before you toke toke.
Tune into my 4/20 mixtape that I made for Homegrown below:
What’s up $toner$ it’s that time of the year again - a.k.a. a greenXXXmas! It was a little tough to out-do my epic and fairlycomprehensive 4 hour 20 minute mix I made for HG last year so insteadI just got really baked and fucked around for a couple of days... foryour joyful entertainment. By the end of the ecstatic ordeal, I’dsuccessfully pushed out this 69-minute mutant. For all the jokers,midnight tokers, oochie koochie men & women & not to mention thetirchi topi wale’s, load this mixtape up, turn it up, and light it up!
Photographs: Vikramaditya Singh